Thanksgiving is coming up soon this year for us Americans and being a quintessential and distinctive American holiday, I’m sure many of us want to keep it as traditional as possible. That is with the traditional foods: turkey and stuffing, yams, mashed potatoes, corn (on or off the cob), and desserts like Pumpkin Pie. But as a free and diverse nation we can of course mix it up a bit and add bits of our ancestral culture to make our celebration our own and unique. In my own family we would have a zucchini casserole, and along with the Turkey, as a main dish some sort of pasta, usually Manicotti or Stuffed Shells. Lasagna and meatballs was and still remains the main course on Christmas for us. For dessert, a long with American favorites like Pumpkin and Apple pie, we’d have cannoli, biscotti, and some sort of Italian cookies.
Before I go on let me explain briefly the story of Thanksgiving, for those who don’t know. Traditionally we were taught that it was a meal shared between the Pilgrims and Native Americans in the new Plymouth colony back in the 1600s to celebrate and thank the Natives for helping the Pilgrims learn to survive in their new environment. The “Pilgrims” were British Puritans looking for a new land to freely practice their religion and eventually landed in what is now Massachusetts. This meal is said to have occurred around the first Harvest time in November. It was made an official holiday by President Abraham Lincoln on October 3rd, 1863 in honor of the ending of the Civil War.
Traditionally, Americans would use it as an opportunity to gather with family to share a large meal, celebrate and give thanks for…well….anything. It’s just a time to remind us to appreciate what we have in life, especially our families.
In addition to food, adding a few Italian dishes to the American table, for entertainment in the background my family, our gatherings usually organized by older members, would have old Italian American favorites singing. Names like Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and so on. Yet another distinctive Italian American trait of our very American Thanksgiving and other family gatherings is “The Italian Goodbye.” At the end, when each of our usual 50 or 60 guests go to leave, each one has to say goodbye to each individual personally and inevitably get into a long conversation with each one. Consequently it takes at least an hour for each guest to go from saying the first “Goodbye” to actually getting out the door. To say nothing of getting into their cars and finally driving away!
But I digress…for ideas on how to have a Thanksgiving “Italian American style” click on this Google search link and feel free to comment here on what, if anything, your family does to make Thanksgiving Italian.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Auguri!